Polio eradication efforts in Africa suffered a setback this week as health officials in Nigeria have reported two children who have been diagnosed with wild poliovirus, the first patients with polio diagnosed in that country in more than two years.

Health officials are responding by launching large-scale immunization campaigns and strengthening surveillance systems, but “volatile security situations’ in this country could jeopardize these efforts, according to statements from the World Health Organization1 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2

“We are deeply saddened by the news that 2 Nigerian children have been paralyzed by polio. The government has made significant strides to stop this paralyzing disease in recent years. The overriding priority now is to rapidly immunize all children around the affected area and ensure that no other children succumb to this terrible disease,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said in the statement.


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Health officials explained that “genetic sequencing of the viruses suggests that the new cases are most closely linked to a wild poliovirus strain last detected in Borno in 2011.”

Up until just four years ago, Nigeria accounted for more than half of the global cases of polio.

Reference

1. WHO.  Government of Nigeria reports 2 wild polio cases, first since July 2014. News release. 2016. 

2. CDC.  Two Cases of Polio Detected in Nigeria. Media statement. 2016.